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Nelson Civic Theatre Society Presents To Nelson City Council At The Committee Of The Whole On July 18, 2016

Nelson Civic Theatre Society presents to Nelson City Council at the Committee of the Whole on July 18, 2016

This is the presentation by Eleanor Stacey, Executive Director, NCTS

Thank you so much for the opportunity to present to you today. It has been a year since our last presentation to Council, and a very busy time since then. I am constantly amazed how quickly this organization continues to grow and change, and it is exciting to look forward to what is coming up in the future.

So today I want to share three things with you. I’d like to recap for you some of our recent developments and achievements; talk a bit about what we are planning now for the future; and then pull back to a more immediate plan, looking at what we have before us in the coming year.

We want to share these things with you because we think that what is developing is exciting and important,  and we would like your input on our direction as it continues to form.

Recent Developments

It is a very exciting time for us at The Civic Theatre.  As an organization we just turned four in June.  It is pretty amazing what our society has been able to achieve in our short history.

We have focused on meeting the needs of our community who wanted their theatre back.  We have shown more than 1,400 screenings of more than 420 respective films.  This is an average of 350 screenings a year, and includes Independent films, documentaries, cult classics and Member Mondays, Art on Screen and Royal Opera House films, as well as mainstream new releases and limited release films.


Photo credit: Louis Bockner, Eye of the Mind Photography

We are very unusual in this respect – there are not a lot of cinemas that have such diversity of commercial and independent fare, because the film distribution industry is not really structured to support doing this.  Nelson’s cultural tastes are diverse though, so our film offerings needs to reflect that diversity.

What is not mentioned on this slide is just how many community rentals we have supported as well – we try to keep daytimes and Monday and Wednesday evenings flexible for community use, and have hosted activitieske Nelson Youth Theatre classes, BCSPCA fundraisers, pre-Marketfest dance rehearsals, film shoots, and many various film renters.  We have also hosted several live music concerts, including the Great Lake Swimmers, Dan Mangan, and Bahamas to name a few, and through them we have discovered just how fantastic a room we are for this sort of performance.  Live and acoustic is less optimal in our space because of our sound treatments, but live and supported by technology is a truly remarkable and surprisingly intimate experience for artists and audiences.

We have also been working to develop our presentation of education and dialogue events.  In the last year, we have hosted live in-person and virtual educational sessions on how to apply for a Community Gaming Grant, navigating changes to the BC Societies Act, and a workshop on how to participate in BC Culture Days.  We also livestreamed the recent re:generation BC Cultural Roundtable – a profoundly insightful one-day conference that took place in New Westminster.  Using Twitter, the Nelson group at The Civic was able to be effectively included in the meeting.  We actively participated in the conversation with speakers through our tweets.

These events are a continuation of the community engagement that we as staff have made a priority in our own professional outreach and relationship development.  Between the two of us, Civic Theatre Programmer Jason Asbell and I have presented to the Rotary and Gyro Clubs, Learning in Retirement, the Canadian Federation of University Women and CFUW’s Stories Inspire Passion event.

I also am pleased to be a member of the City of Nelson’s Cultural Development Committee and the recently formed Civic Centre Tenants Group, as well as on the boards of Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism and the BC Association for Charitable Gaming.  The Civic is also partnering with Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism to take the lead in promoting Culture Days in our area this year.

These kinds of relationships are critically important to us because they help us to stay relevant to interests of people who live in our community, and to be aware of initiatives where we can be of support.

One of the most exciting new developments this year has been the emergence of a conversation with the local Screen Based Industry (or SBI as we are calling it), which consists of film, video, tv, commercials, and online screen media sectors. Over the course of the last year, we have met with various SBI professionals and started to gather their input about what sort of role The Civic could potentially play in working with them and supporting their industry.  In May, we brought this group of stakeholders together for an inaugural conversation about our collective future and we discovered that yes, there is a role for us to play and that the SBI community is encouraging about seeing us take a leadership position in growing this industry.

We have since made an application to the BC Rural Dividend program to underwrite growing communication across this local sector; building a database of people and surveying them to develop an understanding of available local industry resources as well as perceived needs; creating an advisory panel to help us build our SBI programs and services; planning an industry event with professional development and festival components, currently slated for May 2017.

What is especially exciting is that the user opportunities of our future space are being developed concurrently with the interests of this group, setting the stage for promising cultural and economic impacts surrounding SBI. It is also important to note that we aren’t working in a silo – we are working with the Kootenay Columbia Film Region to build this new direction, and we have reached out to other key potential collaborators to continue the discussion.

We are grateful to The City of Nelson, RDCK, and Columbia Basin Trust for their support of our CIP application to install fibre optic in our venue.  Installation is taking place this summer, and we are setting strategies for the coming year to harness this new utility for community and cultural purposes, very much in line with the City’s interests in becoming an Intelligent Community.  We have been participants in the Strategic Doing Process this year, and like many of you, we have learned plenty about the potential of fibre optic as a connector and economic driver, so we are looking forward to capitalizing on that knowledge.

We are also pleased to now be a stop on Nelson’s sculpture tour.  I want to thank Joy Barrett for arranging for the sculpture “To see and to say” to be installed outside of the Civic Centre.


Photo credit: Louis Bockner, Eye of the Mind Photography

This past year, we applied for and received charitable status. This was not a small undertaking, and it speaks to the value of our mission to present movies and much more than movies.  This status opens prospective funding avenues for us that would otherwise have been difficult to access, such as with private foundations and corporate giving programs.

We have been working diligently on preparing for our capital campaign, continuing to focus on how our facility will meet local needs and support future economic and cultural development in our community.  Preparing for capital fundraising takes some time and planning, but we are confident that we are ready to undertake a focused campaign. We have started to cultivate interest in a few prospects, we are in conversation with Columbia Basin Trust about our plans, and we have submitted a Canada 150 application to support a portion of our renovation.

One last thing I’d like to mention surrounding our developments as an organization is that we now employ a total of 17 people, many of them youth gaining work experience for the first time, and we engage  over 100 volunteers on a regular basis.

The City of Nelson’s Path to 2040

Speaking of impact and alignment, as a charitable cultural organization, The Civic Theatre’s programs and services support four out of five of The City of Nelson’s Path to 2040 Sustainability Principles and Directions, and five of the ten Focus Areas.  We also support points under each of the four goals of this Council’s Strategic Plan for 2015-2018. I can certainly expand on how we do these things if Council is interested in hearing more about our intersection with these goals.  But in short, we are striving to be timely, relevant, and impactful in our community and as we continue to grow and mature as a charity, our impact will continue to broaden and deepen.

What the Future Will Look Like

As an example, we did a little crystal-ball gazing for you.  This is what The Civic Theatre could look like in 2021, with three spaces located within our current footprint, a post-production surround sound mixing studio in one of our theatres, and fibre optic serving our community’s collaborative learning and discourse needs.  By this time, the local SBI has built a home base within our organization and uses our space for all sorts of things, and we have built collaborations with other educational and cultural groups on things like summer camps, credit-granting classes, and film festivals. And of course, we will likely still  be showing Star Wars, because we expect they’ll be producing those films for a long time still!

But more specifically, there are some major goals that we want to see happen. These are critical to our organization’s perception of success, and will be indications that we are meeting the needs articulated by the community that brought Nelson Civic Theatre Society to life.  In the future:

We are not only solvent, we are making a significant financial contribution into local initiatives each year.  We know from researching other theatres that have gone from a single screen to multi screen model that this income surplus is to be expected. And it is in our mandate to reinvest any surpluses we see into efforts that serve the public through cultural and educational presentations, programs and services, and to protect, preserve and improve our venue.  It is interesting and exciting to note the uniqueness of our model – most arts organizations don’t ever have the luxury of expecting to become a financial contributor to their local community, but in our case, we can absolutely look forward to this.

We are home to a collaborative and inspired Screen Based Industry membership and community, supporting diverse film and media projects, and seasoned and emerging SBI professionals. We have had a significant hand in building a great reputation for our region as a place to work in this sector.  This is especially exciting because of the impact it stands to have on so many people who live here in both economic and cultural ways.

Utilization is broad and our facility is always busy. A Key Performance Indicator for us is that our facility is being used.  If we are busy and accessed by diverse groups and interests, we are succeeding as serving the needs of our community.


To get there, we are seeking $3 Million in grants, and foundation, corporate and individual support. This is not a small undertaking, but we feel confident that it is the right path for us as an organization and holds the greatest cultural and economic benefits for our city and surrounding areas.  The work will be done in stages, and we plan to start the detailed design work and engineering as funds come in so that we don’t spend ahead of ourselves.

As the senior staffperson for NCTS, I can attest to the drive and commitment of our board of directors towards the vision of this project. The last four years have required a lot of heavy lifting. The last two years have needed further analysis and introspection.  All of it has demanded a lot from board members, and they have my gratitude for their partnership, vision and guidance as we continue down this road together.

None of our work will be done in a vacuum either.  As we continue to develop our space plans, we will also continue to reach out to end users to ensure that what we plan fits their current and future needs, and the overall interests of the community.  This ties in with our last point about optimizing our technology and our space so that it is geared towards meeting diverse needs in the future.

outside_civic_smAnd finally, our relationship with the City of Nelson is a critical part of the formula for our success. We are grateful to the City for allowing us to take on the theatre, and going forward, we will be looking for collaboration from the City for permits, issue management, and support for our project.

I understand that Stephanie Fischer will soon be presenting to Council about the ecology of arts funding in Canada, to offer guidance on making informed decisions about how to fund arts groups in Nelson.  Our project is big, and we hope that we will be able to count on support from the City to enable us to leverage big grants. You are not only our landlord – your thoughts and input matter to us. Your ability to support us has really mattered to us so far and we hope that only grows and continues into the future.

The Year Ahead

For the next year, we will continue to screen films in our single theatre and to develop our community engagement, building relationships with other cultural and educational organizations and companies.  We will continue to communicate with groups that overlap with our area of interest, such as KAST,  Kootenay Columbia Film Region, Creative BC, and independent industry groups and individuals to grow Nelson’s Screen Based Industry, fuelling opportunities for more local work and creative projects.

And finally, we will start to present a public face to our Capital Campaign, leading us to the point when we can take the next steps in our development project. We have already formally launched the quiet phase of our fundraising and are just starting to engage the interest out there. It’s still early days for us. When we next present to you, I hope we will have much clearer news on partners, donors and community participation.

In closing, thank you so much for allowing me to present to you today. I welcome your questions and comments.